Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Hard Life

In Crossing Purgatory by Gary Schanbacher we have a man who suffers terribly over the death of his wife and two boys who died from cholera in 1858. They lived in Indiana and the man was a landowner and farmer, but he wanted to increase his holdings so he pays a visit to his father to get some money. When he returned from this failed mission, he found his sons already dead and his wife critically ill and he feels guilty that he failed them for naught. He heads west with a small wagon train in the charge of a Captain Upperdine and is amazed with all the vacant lands just setting there waiting to be farmed.

But he cannot get over his guilt feelings and has nightmares over them and worries continually that he should never have left his family alone. He manages to make friends with the Johnsons, Obadiah and Hanna and their son Joseph and a freed black man. Prior to reaching the confluence of the Arkansas and Purgatoire Rivers, they are attacked by Missouri raiders and Obadiah and the black man are killed with Joseph injured and Hanna taken advantage of sexually. The man has more guilt for not showing up soon enough, but he does run the attackers off and save Hanna and Joseph.

Upperdine has a wife and many acres of land not too far away from the last incident and the man, Thompson Grey is his name, decides to hang around there and see if he wants to continue on west in the future. He helps a Mexican family take care of Upperdine's and the Mex's farmland and continues in his funk unable to get his past out of his mind.

There is much more going on in this story, but it is a portrait of one farmer and his devotion to the land that reads to me like a Russian story; one dark, depressing, yet inspiring and positive that you hope will end on a positive note. This is an e-book published by Pegasus Books LLC and distributed by Open Road Integrated Media.

The author, Gary Schunbacher, is a terrific writer here and I delighted in reading the book. It kept me enthralled all the way through, even though there isn't much dialogue, just enough to keep the plot moving; a stirring narrative of one man's struggles to maintain his sanity in this barely populated land..

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tough Country by Frank Bonham

Cowboy rancher Jim Canning is released from Huntsville Prison and returns to his hometown of Frontera, Texas. He plans to regain his land and become an upstanding member of the little community that found him guilty of assaulting Ed Wingard and permanently injuring one of Ed's hands that was now practically useless. Although he acted in self-defense, the jury found him guilty.
The land he was going to reclaim was once the Wingards' ranch, but Mott Wingard lost it in a poker game to Canning's father, who named the land the Three Deuces Ranch. When he left for Huntsville to serve his time, Jim leased the land back to Mott Wingard, Ed's father. Mott Wingard doesn't want to give it back to Canning and that's where the rub comes in and partly to get back at him for maiming his son.

The story is written in a gritty style and even the sheriff is against Canning, so it seems. Sheriff Hawk Adams is a rough, tough hombre and takes his duties seriously. It appears as if everyone is against Canning except the doctor's daughter Ann Neeley, and he has an uphill battle with the town to restore his good name.

Frank Bonham, the author, is one of my choices for the best western writer. His stories are written in a gritty style that keeps things hopping right along with lots of action. Tough Country is a Dell First Edition pocket book, the one I read, published in 1958. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Escape to the Country by Patsy Collins

Escape to the Country is not exactly a western; it is not even set in the U. S. West, but somewhere in the United Kingdom. So, it certainly doesn't qualify as a western, but it does have a farm with the usual suspects - cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, mud, lotsa mud when it rains, and bulls as tall as a human.

What happens is, this young lady named Leah Tilbury is accused of wrong-doing on an account she manages at her work at a company called Prophet Margin. The company suspends her while they investigate, and she leaves London and her boyfriend, who works for the same company, and visits her Aunt Jayne in the country.  There is a bit of crime involved in her life, but her story is mostly a romance when she meets a fellow called Duncan on the neighboring farm. She gets stuck in the mud, literally, with a borrowed pair of Wellington's that are too large for her and she can't pull them out of the mud. This Duncan fellow espies her and rescues her by lifting her and her boots out of the mud and sets her down on dry land. The story revolves about this romance and her life with Aunt Jayne and life on the farm. She must find herself free from fraud at work and free from her boyfriend that she shares a flat with for the romance to blossom into something else. There are some surprises along the way and a fine ending that wraps things up nicely.

I plead guilty to reading this mostly romance story and also to maybe reading one or two other books classed in the romance genre for which I will not apologize. I found Ms. Collins novel entertaining, humorous, and well written overall. I thought there was some repetition or over-explaining in the narrative, but not enough to detract from the story. Her style was consistent throughout and she takes Ms. Tilbury through her trials with Duncan and the office problems and a crisis with her Aunt in a way which kept me engrossed and glued to the book to see what would happen next.

Patsy Collins, of course, lives in the U. K. and writes in the very English language of which she is accustomed to doing, well-educated with a wide vocabulary and great enthusiasm. She enjoys traveling around in her van with her husband of a few months and taking photographs of the scenery in addition to her writing and blogging on the net. She has written numerous short stories and a few novels and won many prizes for her writing. On her blog, she provides links to many competitions and tips on writing. Check out her blog at titled Words About Writing and Writing About Words..

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Nemesis by L. J. Martin

The last in this set from Western Fictioneers is Nemesis by L. J. Martin. It is a revenge story that takes a little while to get going and picks up steam when it does. A man named McBain sets out to find the killers of his sister's family. There were her husband and two small daughters and herself that were rubbed out that day by the ruthless killers and McBain had made up his mind to find those skunks and kill 'em all, all five or six of 'em.

He rides into the small town of Nemesis near the ranch where the killers had come from, and soon found himself to be the town sheriff for killing the Everette brothers, even though they weren't the ones for whom he was looking. He didn't get along too well with the County Sheriff Wentworth, with whom he shared his office, but being a lawman, he had better access to the killers on the Lazy Snake Ranch owned by Mace Dillon. Dillon wanted the land that his sister's ranch sat on.

I really enjoyed this story as McBain finds the men he is looking for and gives them the justice he thinks necessary. It carried me right along and had a surprise or two as the author got closer to the end. I recommend it to all readers of westerns.

(Note: This set of novels looked as if it had been published in a hurry as the proofrerading part of the editing process was not carried out to perfection. All-in-all, it didn't detract too much from the storylines of the set, and I can't say they weren't entertaining.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Texas Glory by Robert Vaughan

The battles for a free and independent Texas is woven into and around the events in the life of a man named Hunter Grant. It begins with Grant in Texas seeking contracts for cotton produced in Louisiana and he gets involved in the Battle of Gonzalez that sent Santa Ana packing back to Mexico to get serious about kicking the Americans out of Texas.

Upon returning to his home in New Orleans, Mister Grant gets stuck in a duel with a Mexican Colonel, a friend of the family of the girl he plans to marry, and things begin getting complicated when the Mexican doesn't show up for the duel and Grant's best friend is required to stand in for Colonel Sanchez. Another friend of Grant's, Sam McCord leaves for Texas, and unbeknownst to McCord, leaves a pregnant woman behind.

Grant is hired to find the young woman and bring her back home after she takes off to find McCord and marry him. And the situation tends to get further complicated as Santa Ana is building up his forces to make a run on the Alamo and Colonel Sanchez is with him. And the fight takes place at the Alamo and again in the Battle of San Jacinto afterward. Grant falls in love with the young woman, but cannot talk her into returning to New Orleans and she marries McCord who is killed in the Alamo.

Mister Vaughan writes a detailed and compelling story of the Texas confrontation and the love affair that maintained my interest throughout even though I found it to be a little long and wordy in the details. I would still recommend it to all readers of the Western genre and give it four stars.  I liked Brandywine's War better, but it takes place during the Viet Nam war..